Anti-terrorism court orders additional remand in police custody until Nov. 19.
An anti-terrorism court in Pakistan on Monday remanded in custody four people accused of burning to death Shehzad Masih and Shama Bibi, a Christian couple, for alleged blasphemy—killings that have sparked nationwide anger.
Bonded laborer Masih and his pregnant wife were beaten by a mob of 1,500 people then thrown on top of a lit furnace last week in a crazed reaction to rumors they had thrown pages of the Quran into the garbage.
The horrific incident on Nov. 4 has sparked outrage and protests across Pakistan. Police have arrested more than 40 suspects.
Politicians, ordinary citizens, religious scholars and rights activists from different schools of thought have voiced anger at the brutal crime. “The police produced four suspects in anti-terrorism court and the judge remanded them into police custody for further interrogation till Nov. 19,” said a prosecution official. He said 39 more suspects were already in jail, out of a total of some 60 suspects named in the lynching of the couple.
Some 900 students from Lahore’s missionary schools staged a demonstration outside the Lahore Press Club against the murders. “We want justice!” and “Stop killing minorities!” protesters shouted. “Death penalty for the killers of Shehzad and Shama,” read one banner.
The couple was lynched in the tiny hamlet of Chak 59 near the town of Kot Radha Kishan.
Sirajul Haq, the leader of Pakistan’s largest religious party Jamaat-e-Islami, visited Kot Radha Kishan on Monday and met the family of the victims. He “strongly condemned” the killings, demanded a high-level inquiry into them and urged the government to ensure severe punishment for the perpetrators, according to a party official.
Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Pakistan, with even unproven allegations often prompting mob violence. Those who take part in the violence are rarely if ever prosecuted—a fact not lost upon the relatives of the deceased.